Tag Archives: metaphor

Rough Waters: Leading and Learning in Turbulent Times

Making Waves, Silver Turbulence (c) 2014 Amberwood Media Group, all rights reserved

Turbulent Waters in the Organization. Can we still make headway when our emotions turn to survival? image (c) 2014 Amberwood Media Group

CHARLOTTE, NC.  Leadership and organizational learning are hard enough on a good day, when things are calm.

When our surroundings become turbulent the situation can worsen quickly, as we begin facing new obstacles. The rules change. Challenges arrive more rapidly. Problem definitions morph before our eyes. Goals begin to shift in real time. Team members may end up in different roles, and the opportunity to communicate with them may be limited.

Whether its new management, new competitors, or even new regulatory presures, leading in times of change places considerable demands on us (ref: 21st century Kotter; see also: Collaboration DNA). Learning focus can move to the back burner.

Out of fear, do we simply latch onto survival instincts?

Or do we manage to focus, somehow, on the challenges flowing toward us?

Too often, fear consumes us. When we most need our thinking and perception skills, the flood of rapid change can cause paralysis or panic.

I love the metaphor of turbulent water (think flood waters, river rapids, or heavy surf) because the notion of rough water demands attention, skills that favor balance, and a clear ability to react in the moment. In short, turbulent change requires all of our energy. If we apply the metaphor in the organizational learning context, what may leaders take away? Let’s discuss it:

  • Q1. What are some secrets for change and learning leaders seeking to function in turbulent situations?
  • Q2. Can an organization still learn when rough waters distract us?
  • Q3. Are there good arguments to suspend learning when focus shifts to survival?
  • Q4. As the world grows more connected and accelerated, the rate of flow can only increase; will we ever see smooth sailing again?

I hope you will join us MON May 12th at 8pET using hashtag #cdna. Water metaphors or no, we always have in-depth conversations. Bring an extra paddle, and let’s see where we might go.

See you online.

Chris @sourcepov


Semantics of the Spiral, Unwound

We’ve been talking around the idea of Spiral Thinking for several weeks now, but have yet to advance the metaphor beyond a general sense that it’s an improved way to think about learning. It’s a captivating visual. But in terms of manners and symmetry, it’s clearly less well-behaved than it’s straight-as-an-arrow distant cousin, Linear Thinking.

Spiral GOLD lighted

Spiral as a metaphor for thinking

We’ve learned to date that it’s hard not to run afoul through negative connotations of tornados, flushing toilets, and more generally “spiraling out of control”. We’ve concluded there are more negative connotations for spiral metaphors than there are positive ones.

Our only saving grace so far, perhaps, has been the DNA double-helix. Or the haphazard flight of a bumble bee.

To see if we might further use the Spiral metaphor in useful ways, let’s take it apart, as we think about what it might represent for us as a visual aid, in the context of thinking and learning.

  • Q1. Could each successive band represent progress?
  • Q2. If the bands converge to a single point, might that represent movement toward a solution? (see also Q8)
  • Q3. If the bands diverge into a funnel, might we infer exploration?
  • Q4. Are we mentally beholden to what Lakoff (1980) describes as a cultural certainty: “up is good?”
  • Q5. If we view the path of any given band as a gradual curve, might we regain a preferred sense of an orderly, smooth path?
  • Q6. Does the spiral advance the notion of flow?
  • Q7. How might this metaphor most used in our thinking? our learning? how we approach collaboration?
  • Q8. Is a linear model better when it’s time to move to a solution? (see also Q2)

We know we rarely experience the world or learn from it in a linear fashion. Our lives are a round-about journey.

Perhaps our prevailing metaphors should follow that lead.

We won’t stay in the Spiral metaphor too much longer. We’re clearly testing the limits of how spatial and visual a Twitter Chat can be. But it helps to know the limits of our visual tools. If we’re going to use Spiral Thinking as a metaphor, we need know how and when to apply it, but also, as Lakoff advises (to paraphrase) we need to know when enough is enough.

See you online, MON 8pET at hashtag #CDNA.

Chris


Learning to Learn: The Evolution of KM and OD; Can they work with Education to change the game?

DNA in the Evolution of KM and OD

DNA in the Evolution of KM and OD: Can we adapt to drive meaningful change?

As covered in my recent KM-OD post and discussed in my KM World 2012 W5 workshop, the modern organization needs every shred of productivity and innovation capacity it can muster. But buzz words and aphorisms abound in this space.

Can we actually make a meaningful difference?

I’ve found that traditional practices of Knowledge Management (KM) and Organization Development (OD) have struggled when it comes to getting people meaningfully engaged on the topic of learning. It can be an abstract discussion. Uncomfortable with ambiguity and not knowing, most of us quickly we turn to process manuals, documenting what we think we know, or running training classes.  For KM and OD to evolve .. for the modern organization to truly embark on learning how to learn .. we must change the approach.

And what role does organized Education play in all this?

I discuss some ideas for this in The DNA of Collaboration (Ch.19).  In today’s virtual Book Tour conversation, let’s discuss a few of the key points:

  • Q1. KM should help knowledge moves through organizations and generate value. Does this happen where you work?
  • Q2. Does an OD function in your organization exist? Does it help teach people to learn?
  • Q3. What are the synergies between KM and OD?
  • Q4. How can organized Education influence/guide this evolution?
  • Q5. Senge and Wheatley have said much on learning in the collaborative context. Is it still relevant?
  • Q6. New thinking about change (per Hagel): a shift from structure to flow, reflecting how we learn. Agree?

You can join the conversation via TweetChat here.

Note that Saturday is becoming our Global CDNA conversation, with N.Amercian (US & CN) CDNA conversations breaking out Monday evenings, moving to alternate weeks in January.

Intrigued?  Reach out, let me know your thoughts.

Chris Jones, aka @sourcepov, author


A Time and Place, Venues for Flow (Ch.13)

Clearly, collaboration requires a venue, a space where people can come together and share ideas.  But to open opportunities for flow, we’ll need to work to get outside the box of traditional meetings. As low tech and old school as it seems, a conference room provides many of the necessary trappings needed for in-depth conversation.

But what else is needed for flow?

As we prepare for KMW12 W5 tomorrow, let’s tap tonight’s special #cdna chat to unpack this.

  • Q1. How can space be modified to capture ideas more fluidly, perhaps using un-conferences as a guide?
  • Q2. How might adaptive facilitation further open dialog?
  • Q3. What metaphors for flow might help collaborators further shed notions of structured facilitation?
  • Q4. Can visualizing idea streams make a difference?

Hope to see you online, as we begin to unpack “flow” in the collaborative context.

- Chris Jones aka SourcePOV, author, The DNA of Collaboration


KMW12 Workshop W5 in Washington DC: Book author Chris Jones will be discussing the Flow of Insights

Excited that our author, Chris Jones, will be speaking at KMWorld in Washington, DC on 10/16, leading Workshop W5: Knowledge Networks and the Flow of Insights.  The session will be a great opportunity to delve into aspects of The DNA of Collaboration that deal with the collaboration process itself, including roles, space/venue and synthesis.

See the SourcePOV blog for more on the planned 3-hour session.  Registration is still open at the KMWorld site

Also, you’ll find more about the event in the news, courtesy PR Web.


Common Ground: The Power of Metaphor and Story (Ch.6/7)

When we talk about team play or collaboration, we often talk about the importance of establishing common ground. Trouble is, we spend very few cycles on how to get there.

Here are two approaches that interact in powerful ways:

  • From the literary side of the world there’s a valuable and relevant tool called Metaphor that links abstract notions to concrete things we can observe ..
  • Since the dawn of civilization, we’ve used Story to pass down values and create emotional connections across societies and generations ..

So what does all that mean for us as collaborators?

What if we were to weave metaphor and story together to form a new, more resilient way to get people working together, stitching a durable fabric of ideas and communication principles that everyone can relate to?  Well, actually, we just did. Reread that last sentence. The weaver and fabric metaphors are themselves powerful because they elicit the sense of creating something strong, new and valuable. Putting ourselves .. as collaborators .. into that metaphor is the stuff that draws interest and connection, and the short narratives wrapping around it all quickly evolve into emotional, high impact stories.

When our communication is rich and insightful and touches on our emotions, I’m finding that fundamentally deeper connections can be forged.

All of the sudden, collaboration is not only possible, it’s contagious.

Let’s unpack a few aspects of how these fascinating communication tools can help us.

Q1. Semantic Grounding. From Aristotle to Lakoff much has been said re: the power of metaphor to make the abstract more clear; what are your favorite examples?

Q2. K12 Education. How does the factory metaphor for learning (re: defects) stack up against a more organic metaphor, like the rhizome (re: rooted resilience)?

Q3. Emergence. In “Where Good Ideas Come From” @StevenBJohnson shares Reef, City & Web as 3 metaphors for emergence. Other examples? Something based on weaver or grower idea:  maybe Fabric? or Seedling?

Q4. E20 Storytelling. How can simple narratives tell a story? If we put our enterprise co-workers and stakeholders in the plot and discuss consequences, can we touch emotions?

I hope you’ll join us SAT 8/18 at 11aET as we discuss what I always find a fascinating topic.  If you want to dig further, you’ll find discussion of both threads in The DNA of Collaboration, now on Kindle, with softcover launch planned for Labor Day.

In the book, I discuss over 20 metaphors (including all of these) which can, when used in stories and even simple narratives, provide rich and powerful ways to establish common ground. In truth, language and communication are vast topics, and we are only scratching the surface ..

But as they say, you have to start somewhere.  See you online?

- Chris Jones, author, @sourcepov


It’s Time for New Choices (from the back cover)

More and more we’re called upon to collaborate – but the factors that determine our success can be elusive. Collaboration requires focus, intention, time and engagement, key elements that are far too scarce in the 21st Century.

Collaboration is a choice. And it’s a choice many will avoid.

With application across commercial, social and public domains, this book introduces Collaboration DNA as the basic building blocks of team-based problem solving, the tools needed to attack our ever more difficult challenges:

  • Frameworks – simple, accessible ways to describe our abstract ideas
  • Messaging – improving our communication through language, metaphor  & story
  • Relationships – exploring listening, culture change, interpersonal dynamics and new, more flexible modes of governance
  • Flow – expanding scenarios for space, roles and process, with a look at virtual tools and how social technologies are changing the game
  • Possibilities – looking at the evolution of  knowledge management, a return to critical thinking and a new appreciation for complexity

The world isn’t waiting for us. The pressure is on. We must find ways to unlock the potential of our organizations, many of them gridlocked by the structural hierarchies left over from the century-old Industrial Revolution. Collaboration is not easy. But it promises deep rewards for those who invest time in getting it right.

The DNA of Collaboration is a practical guide for teams who intend to do better. And it’s not just a book, it’s conversation. Keep an eye on hashtag #cdna as we begin to unpack the core topics online.

Follow us on Twitter: @collabdna (book) and @sourcepov (author).


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